EDINBURG – Rio Grande Valley residents believe their schools are doing an adequate job of teaching students, according to a recent survey by the Center for Survey Research at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Overall, the survey – covering Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties – found Valley residents enjoy their general quality of life. On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best, the average ranking was 73.2.
The average grade given to local public schools was "B," with 91.4 percent of those polled having children in a public school. Parents of public school children and Mexican-Americans were slightly more likely to rate public schools better than residents without children in public schools and Anglos, the survey found.
"To the education professionals, this survey says the public is perceiving your problems as the same as those in the community and they must be dealt with together," said Dr. Robert D. Wrinkle, director of the Center for Survey Research and political science professor.
"There’s also considerable room for improvement, so the schools cannot rest on their laurels," Wrinkle said. "They must accommodate public wishes."
Meanwhile, residents believe the biggest problems in the Valley are violence (56 percent) and drugs (27 percent). The biggest problems reported in public schools were student discipline, drugs and gangs.
"This is about what we expected," Wrinkle said. "The respondents are saying the schools are reflective of the larger community. What is significant is they don’t see a problem with school funding or curriculum but with problems reflected in society."
In fact, 61 percent of parents surveyed would move their children to another school district or community if a better education were available. That figure is much higher than the national average of 10-12 percent, Wrinkle said.
"These results indicate that while Valley residents are relatively satisfied, they would like improvements," he said. "It also speaks to the idea they feel they can move within the Valley community and not really leave the area. They still feel at home, and they can pursue a better education for their children without dislocation."
The education survey is part of an ongoing survey series by the UTPA Center for Survey Research, a unit of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Called "The Pulse of the Valley," the series is designed to inform Valley communities of attitudes on various issues.
The next Center survey will focus on Valley attitudes of the criminal justice system. It should be complete in the next few weeks, Wrinkle said.
The phone survey of 698 residents was conducted Nov. 11-22 by the Center for Survey Research. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent. Slightly more than 20 percent of people contacted refused interviews, which were done in both English and Spanish.